BUIP046: Faster, Higher Quality Publication Process for the Bitcoin Research Journal Ledger
Proposer: Christopher E. Wilmer (BU member, @chriswilmer)
Sumbit date: 2017-02-17
Status: passed

Proposer: Christopher E. Wilmer (BU member)

Project Title: Faster, Higher Quality Publication Process for the
Bitcoin Research Journal Ledger

Bitcoin Address: 3LedgercRWmJErpMU9RazNoX3eNb6CQpKD

Motivation: Ledger is the first peer-reviewed scholarly journal
dedicated to Bitcoin/blockchain research. Its mission is aligned closely
with two “Areas of Interest” highlighted in Bitcoin Unlimited’s call for
proposals: (1) quality control and (2) outreach. First, by encouraging
and facilitating community members to submit their novel Bitcoin-related
ideas to a peer-review process, the journal helps improve the quality of
Bitcoin research. Second, the journal provides a credible venue for
Bitcoin research (including research that is being carried out by BU
developers!) that can reach a wider community of scholars, scientists,
and engineers (and also the public). Moreover, since many popular venues
for Bitcoin discussion, both non-technical (e.g., /r/bitcoin,
bitcointalk.org) and technical (e.g., dev mailing lists, IRC), suffer
from censorship, there is a pressing need for the community to support
alternative (neutral) venues.

Providing this important service to the Bitcoin community, however, has
been a challenge with an all-volunteer staff. Ledger has recently
experimented with paying a part-time editor to expedite and improve the
publication process. This initial experiment was very successful and we
now wish to raise funds to keep this part-time editor for the next year
of operations.

Objectives: Ledger aspires to improve the author experience, the
size of the readership, and the credibility of the journal. The specific
objectives of this proposal are to (1) decrease the average turnaround
time (from submission to the first round of reviewer of feedback) to 6
weeks from its current time of 12+ weeks, (2) increase the average
number of reviewers per article from 2.5 to 3.5, and (3) to publish
12-15 articles in 2017.

Project Duration: 12 months, Feb. 1st 2017 – Feb. 1st, 2018

Project Team: Dr. Christopher E. Wilmer and Dr. Peter R. Rizun (both
BU members) are the managing editors of the journal. We also have a long
list of editors and editorial board members that can be seen on our web
Note that one of our editors, Antony Zegers, is also a BU member.
Everyone involved is a volunteer, except Mr. Richard F. Burley, who we
recently having been paying on a part-time basis. Richard has a degree
in English and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. at Boston College. He has
extensive writing/editing/publishing experience and is broadly
knowledgeable about Bitcoin.

Summary of Current Work: Our first published issue can be viewed
It is worth pointing out that this inaugural issue represents the tip of
the iceberg of the work that the Ledger team has accomplished since its
conception in mid-2014. Recruiting an editorial board, recruiting
editors, finding an appropriate publisher, developing the submission
protocol and editing standards, and marketing the journal to prospective
authors was all done in the 2014-2015 period, and in 2016 over 40
submissions were considered, and reviewed, leading to 10 accepted
articles published at the end of that year.

Description of Activities: As “Deputy Managing Editor” Richard’s
activities include the following (estimated at 15 hours per week of

’'Regular activities*

  • Screening incoming submissions (~1-2 hours)

  • Copyediting articles accepted for publication (~3-4 hours)

  • Compiling reviewer feedback into open peer-review documents (~2-3

  • Coordinating with the publisher on publishing accepted articles
    (~0.5-1 hours)

  • Coordinating weekly editor’s meetings (~1-2 hours)

  • Responding to general inquires (~1-2 hours)

  • Assigning papers to editors and guiding them through each process step
    (~1-2 hours)

  • Total: ( 9.5 - 16 hours, plus ad hoc activities listed below)

*Ad Hoc activities’’

  • Identifying and eliminating procedural bottlenecks in the publication

  • Implementing tools/procedures to improve the quality of submissions
    and the review process

**Anticipated Challenges and Uncertainties:*’ The biggest challenge the
journal faces is the same one faced by all new journals: establishing
credibility. Credibility is closely tied to selectivity (i.e., accepting
only the highest quality articles for publication), but a new journal
must first build a significant volume of submissions before it can be
selective. As with digital currencies, journals experience network
effects that are self-reinforcing, and it is uncertain at this time
whether Ledger will climb in prominence or descend into obscurity.
However, there is little competition to Ledger that is not
simultaneously narrow in scope (for example, cryptography conference
proceedings that publish Bitcoin research but are not suitable for
economics-based or law-based submissions). In this regard, Ledger is
both first, and prominent, as can be measured by some press we have (and
continue) to receive. See Nature News article that mentions Ledger


Specific to this proposal, some anticipated challenges and uncertainties
exist around the authors and reviewers, whose promptness is not within
direct control of Ledger. However, in our experience thus far, authors
themselves are not bottlenecks in the publication process, and delays
caused by reviewers can be managed by casting wider nets (i.e., asking
more reviewers to participate).

It perhaps goes without saying that meeting the third objective,
publishing 12-15 articles in 2017, depends on future author submissions
and is thus uncertain. However, even in its early phase, Ledger has been
receiving 2-4 submissions per month on average, and we hope to increase
this number significantly by the end of the year.

**Budget:*’ $16,250

  • $325 per week for 15 hours per week for the Deputy Managing Editor

  • 50 weeks (2 weeks are taken off each year for vacation)

Ledger is partly funded ($500 per year) by Coin Center. We are
interested in pursuing additional funding from other sources, which (if
enough could be raised) would be used to either increase the time
commitment of the Deputy Managing Editor or to hire a second part-time
editor whose desired expertise would be more technical and whose focus
would be more on vetting incoming submissions.

Impact: If successful, Ledger can have a significant short term
impact on the adoption and implementation of protocol changes/upgrades
(e.g., block size increase). In particular, research done by BU
developers, research funded by BU through the proposal process, could
carry more weight if published in Ledger after having been
peer-reviewed. In the long term (5-10 years), Ledger aspires to be a top
journal for Bitcoin/blockchain related research, whose articles
significantly influence global Bitcoin/blockchain-technology policy, and
where many of the exciting future innovations are first discussed.